Blackhawks

Blackhawks sign coveted international free agent

Blackhawks sign coveted international free agent

After drawing interest from multiple NHL teams, Czech defenseman Jan Rutta has decided to sign with the Blackhawks, the team announced Wednesday. It's a one-year entry-level contract.

“Jan has been on our radar for a number of years and he has shown great progress on the ice during that time,” GM Stan Bowman said in a statement. “His addition to the organization makes our defense more dynamic and he has shown he can contribute offensively as well.”

The 26-year-old blue liner has spent the last four seasons playing for the Pirati Chomutov in the Czech Extraliga, where he was teammates with recently-signed Czech forward David Kampf.

Rutta ranked second in the league with 34 points, racking up eight goals and 24 assists in 46 regular-season games during the 2016-17 campaign. He also tallied two goals and 11 assists in 17 playoff contests.

Rutta scored one goal in eight games during the IIHF World Championships with the Czech Republic, sharing a blue line with current Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny.

With Brian Campbell (38) and Johnny Oduya (35) set to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1, and the possibility of losing Trevor van Riemsdyk in the expansion draft or via trade, the Blackhawks could use some fresh blood on the back end.

At 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, Rutta has a right-handed shot and is known to be an offensive defenseman. He turns 27 in July, and gives the Blackhawks an option to hop into the lineup right away.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Where Blackhawks’ chances stand without Corey Crawford

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Where Blackhawks’ chances stand without Corey Crawford

JJ Stankevitz, Charlie Roumeliotis and Russ Dorsey join Kap on a Tuesday edition of STL.

0:00 - Corey Crawford has been “unfit to play” so far at Blackhawks camp. Can the Blackhawks win a series if he can’t play? Plus, was the criticism about Jonathan Toews’ COVID-19 comments warranted?

4:30 - Testing delays continue to plague MLB’s restart. What are the chances every baseball team plays every game in 2020?

11:00 - NFL training camps are set to begin this weekend. Will the league start the season on time?

15:00 - ESPN’s Bill Barnell says the Bears have the 28th-best skill players group in the 32-team NFL. Is he right?

20:00 - The NBA extends the quarantine of a player for getting a food delivery. Is this a sign that the league’s strict bubble will work?

Listen here or below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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How Blackhawks embracing underdog status could work against Oilers

How Blackhawks embracing underdog status could work against Oilers

Ahead of the NHL pause on March 12 — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the Blackhawks had almost zero chance to be in the playoffs.

They sat at No. 12 in the Western Conference, six points out of a wild card spot with four teams to jump in 12 remaining regular season games.

Now that they'll be facing the Edmonton Oilers in a little over two weeks for a chance to make a run at the Stanley Cup again, they're going to embrace the challenge.

"It’s going to be a tough series against Edmonton," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said following the Hawks' first day of training camp leading up to the postseason on Monday. "They have two of the best players in the world - if not THE two best to players in the world in (Connor) McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl. But it’s not just those two guys. There (are) other players on their team that are dangerous. They were ahead of us in the standings, so we know we’ve got our work cut out for us. But we’re excited to have this opportunity and show that we belong and we could make some noise as an underdog."

As an underdog, most of the pressure is off Chicago and on Edmonton. The West's No. 5 team at the time of the pause is not only the favorite to beat a team that wouldn't have normally been in the postseason in the Blackhawks, but they have the added expectation of winning as the home ice club with the series being played in Edmonton. 

In March, the Hawks realistically may have either been dwelling on why they came up short again or which golf courses they should hit up. Now, they're thinking about how they have nothing to lose in a postseason they're not supposed to be in, taking on a team they're not supposed to beat. 

"I think we match up pretty well," Hawks forward Brandon Saad said after Day 2 of camp on Tuesday. "It’s something we haven’t touched upon too much here at camp. It’s more about getting ready and focusing on what we can bring to the table. But I think everyone’s looked pretty good in camp for the most part with staying in shape and trying to take advantage of getting the touches and reps in. But they have a good team and I know it’s going to be a challenge for us. But I think for us, we’re confident as a group regardless of who we’re playing. Just focus on what we can do to have success."

After Day 2's practice, Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said the team will begin strategizing for the matchup shortly.

The Hawks finish up their Phase 3 training camp on Sunday, July 26 before traveling to Edmonton to take on the Oilers.

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